Mortal Kombat is an arcade fighting game developed and published by Midway Games in 1992 as the first title in the Mortal Kombat series. It was subsequently released by Acclaim Entertainment for nearly every home video game platform of the time.
Identifier sg_Mortal_Kombat_1992_Acclaim_Arena_Entertainment_Midway_ProbeMediatype softwareScanner Internet Archive Python library 0.5.2Publicdate 2014-05-06 03:16:45Addeddate 2014-05-06 03:16:45Emulator_ext binEmulator genesisCreator Acclaim/Arena Entertainment/Midway/ProbeDate 1992Year 1992Language English
The game introduced many key aspects of the Mortal Kombat series, including the unique five-button control scheme and gory finishing moves. The game focuses on the journey of the monk Liu Kang to save Earth from the evil sorcerer Shang Tsung, ending with their confrontation in the tournament known as Mortal Kombat.
Mortal Kombat became a best-selling game and remains one of the most popular fighting games in the genre's history, spawning numerous sequels and spin-offs over the following years and decades, beginning with Mortal Kombat II in 1993, and together with the first sequel was the subject of a successful film adaptation in 1995. It also sparked much controversy for its depiction of extreme violence and gore using realistic digitized graphics, resulting in the introduction of age-specific content descriptor ratings for video games.
Mortal Kombat is a fighting game in which players battle opponents in one-on-one matches. The player that depletes the opponent's health bar first wins the round and the first player to win two rounds wins the match. Players select one of seven characters. Whereas other fighting games had characters with considerable differences in speed, height, attacks, strength, jumping heights and distances, the playable characters in Mortal Kombat are virtually identical to one another with only minimal differences in their moves' range and speed. The game also distinguished itself from other fighting games of the time with its unique control scheme. The controls consist of five buttons arranged in an "X" pattern: four buttons for high and low punches and kicks with a block button at the center, as well as an eight-way joystick. Attacks can vary depending on the player's distance from the opponent. All player characters have a shared set of attacks performed by holding the joystick in various directions, such a leg sweep and the uppercut, which knocks enemies high into the air and causes a large amount of damage.
Sub-Zero performing his "Spine Rip" on Scorpion (Ed Boon's favorite classic Fatality)
Mortal Kombat also featured unique ways in which special moves were performed. It was the first game to introduce special moves performed exclusively using the joystick. Most special moves were performed by tapping the joystick, sometimes ending with a button press. Unlike previous one-on-one fighting games, few moves required circular joystick movement. Co-designer Ed Boon later said, "since the beginning, one of the things that's separated us from other fighting games is the crazy moves we've put in it, like fireballs and all the magic moves, so to speak." Another of the game's innovations was the Fatality, a finishing move executed against a defeated opponent to kill them in a gruesome fashion.
The game's blocking system also distinguished itself from other fighting games. Unlike Street Fighter characters take a small amount of damage from regular moves while blocking. However, the dedicated block button allows users to defend against attacks without retreating and blocking characters lose very little ground when struck, thus making counterattacks much easier after a successful block. Mortal Kombat also introduced the concept of "juggling", knocking an opponent into the air and following up with a combination of attacks while the enemy is still airborne and defenseless. The idea became so popular that it has spread to many other games.
In the single player game, players face each of the game's characters in a series of one-on-one matches against computer-controlled opponents, ending in a mirror match against the character that the player has selected. The player must then fight in a series of endurance matches featuring two opponents in each round. A second player can join in at any time to fight against the first player. Between certain levels, players can compete in a minigame called "Test Your Might" for bonus points, breaking blocks of various materials by filling a meter past a certain point through rapid button presses; the first material the player must break is wood, followed by stone, steel, ruby, and finally diamond, with each successive material requiring more of the meter to be filled up and thus awarding more points. Two players can compete in the minigame at once and the last two materials are only accessible through two-player mode. The minigame would return in various forms in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks and Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe.
The game takes place on a fictional island in Earthrealm, where a tournament is being held at Shang Tsung's Island, on which seven of its locations serve as stages in the game. The introduction to Mortal Kombat II explains that Shang Tsung was banished to Earthrealm 500 years ago and, with the help of the monstrous Goro, is able to seize control of the Mortal Kombat tournament in an attempt to doom the realm. For 500 years straight, Goro has never been defeated in the tournament, and now a new generation of warriors must challenge him. The player receives information about the characters in biographies displayed during the attract mode. Additional information about the characters and their motivations for entering the tournament is received upon completion of the game with each character.
Four official ports were released in North America as part of the "Mortal Monday" campaign in 1993. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis versions were the home console ports, while handheld console ports were released for the Nintendo Game Boy and Sega Game Gear. While the SNES version's visuals and audio were more accurate than those of the Sega Genesis version, it features changes to the gameplay and due to Nintendo's "Family Friendly" policy, replaces the blood with sweat and most of the fatalities with less violent "finishing moves". On the Sega Genesis version, the blood and uncensored fatalities were available via a cheat code, spelled out "ABACABB", a nod to the Abacab album by the band Genesis who shared their name with the North American version of the console. This version was given an MA-13 rating by the Videogame Rating Council.
Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded Mortal Kombat the title of "Most Controversial Game of 1993". In 1995, the Daily News wrote, "the original Mortal Kombat video game debuted in 1992. Its combination of story line, character and mega-violence soon made it a hit worldwide. And the controversy engendered by its blood-gushing special effects only served to boost its popularity." In 2004, readers of Retro Gamer voted Mortal Kombat as the 55th top retro game, with the staff commenting that "future versions would address the limitations of the first game, but this is where it all began." CraveOnline ranked it second of the top ten 2D fighters of all time, and Forbes called Mortal Kombat one of the "most loved arcade games" that was "king of the arcade" in its day, writing that the arcade machines of the original title sell for any price between a few hundred dollars to $2,500. In 2011, Complex ranked the first Mortal Kombat as the 12th best fighting game of all time, while Wirtualna Polska ranked it as the 19th best Amiga game. In 2012, Time named it one of the 100 greatest video games of all time. In 2013, the first Mortal Kombat was ranked as the best arcade game of the 1990s by Complex (the sequel, which "took everything we loved about the original and magnified it by about a million," was given sixth place on the list).